Born in 1933 in Dnepropetrovsk, Soviet Union, since the 1970s Ilya Kabakov has had a pivotal role in the movement of Russian Conceptualism. Inextricably made in collaboration with his wife Emilia, Kabakov’s work is a deep analysis of the individual’s social conditions during the post-Stalinist period in the Soviet Union. Yet it is imbued with utopian images and subjects, which arise from the imagination of the artist and function as a powerful means of evading reality.
Ilya Kabakov passed away in the USA on 27 May 2023.
Since the early 1990s Ilya and Emilia have collaborated to make installations which are conceived and defined as ‘total installations’. The ‘total installations’ present situations and scenes that are inspired by the artists' milieu and completely surround the visitor with complex references to history, art, literature and philosophy.
Starting from 2005 their project 'The Ship of Tolerance' has been presented internationally in collaboration with major events in: Rome (2017); Zug, Switzerland (2016); New York (2013); Moscow (2013); Havana, Cuba (2012); Miami, USA (2011); St Moritz, Switzerland (2010); Sharjah, UAE (2010); Venice, Italy (2009) and Siwa, Egypt (2005).
They were selected for major international events such as the Venice Biennial (1993, 1995, 2003, 2007), Documenta IX in 1992 and the Whitney Biennial in 1997. In 2014 they presented Monumenta at the Grand Palais, in Paris.
Their work has also been the subject of many international exhibitions, for instance in Dallas Contemporary (2021); Museum for Architectural Drawing, Berlin, Germany (2019); Tate Modern, London (2017-2018); The Hermitage, St. Petersburg (2018); Tretyakov Gallery, Moscow (2018); El Faro de Oriente, Mexico (2014); the Sprengel Museum, Hannover (2012); The National Gallery of Scotland, Edinburgh (2011); The Model Contemporary Art Centre, Sligo, Ireland (2010); The Louvre, Paris (2010), the Museum of Contemporary Art of Rome, Italy (2010); the Guggenheim Museum, New York (2010 and 2005); the Serpentine Gallery, London (2005), and the Museum of Modern Art, New York (2005). Group exhibitions include: Fondazione Antonio Ratti, Como, Italy (2021 - ongoing): The Oscar Niemeyer Museum (2019); Garage Museum of Contemporary Art, Moscow, Russia (2018); MAXXI, Rome, Italy (2017); Royal Academy of Arts, London, UK (2016); Centre d’Art Contemporain, Meymac, France (2015); among others.
They were the recipients of the 7th annual award of "The Art Newspaper Russia", category "Exhibition of the Year”, with the show "Not everyone will be taken into the future".
Kabakov’s work is included in the collections of most of the world’s major museums such as the Museum of Modern Art, New York; Tate Modern, London and The Centre Pompidou, Paris.